Abdul Abdullah (b. 1986) is an artist from Perth, currently based in Sydney, who works across painting, photography, video, installation and performance. As a self described ‘outsider amongst outsiders’, his practice is primarily concerned with the experience of the ‘other’ in society. Abdullah’s projects have engaged with different marginalized minority groups and he is particularly interested in the experience of young Muslims in the contemporary multicultural Australian context, as well as connecting with creative communities throughout the Asia Pacific. Through these processes and explorations Abdullah extrapolates this outlook to an examination of universal aspects of human nature.
His works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, The Gallery of Modern Art, Artbank, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, The Islamic Museum of Australia and The Bendigo Art Gallery. In 2015 Abdul exhibited at Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and at the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, in 2016 he exhibited at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art and in 2017 he showed at PATAKA Art Museum in New Zealand and with Yavuz Gallery at Art Basel Hong Kong and the Asia Now Art Fair in Paris. Most recently Abdul exhibited at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiangmai, The National Gallery of Australia as part of Infinite Conversations, Art Basel Hong Kong, and was shortlisted along with his brother Abdul-Rahman Abdullah to represent Australia in the 2019 Venice Biennale. In 2020 Abdul exhibited at the Adelaide Biennial, The Armory Show in New York, and the Gropius Bau Museum in Berlin.
I worked at a boxing gym for ten years in Perth. The fellas pulled a lot of pranks. A favourite would be when we were eating out together at some place, preferably with someone new, one of the fighters would secretly place a hot chip on the new guy’s shoulder. A second guy would stand up and slam the table and explode at the new guy, getting in his face, accusing him of something like he wanted to fight him. He would end with: “what’s the matter with you? – you got fucking a chip on your shoulder”.
“karama” is the word for dignity or respect in Arabic. I’m right handed, so often my left hand is just floating around, or holding something. It’s less dexterous, but it’s always in view. I don’t have to look far for the reminder.
Sometime around 2013 my brother @Abdul_rahman_abdullah and I would go and train with @richard_lewer ‘s fighters when he was coaching boxers in Perth. Richard was also mentoring us a bit with our practices. My brother was explaining an idea he had, and Richard’s feedback was: “so what”. It was cutting, but also struck to the heart of the matter. What are we doing anything for? Beyond the technical and the aesthetic, why does it matter, and why should it mean anything to anyone else. I liked the advice so much I kept it.
I write with my right hand and I paint with my right hand. I reach out with it when I meet somebody new. It’s where the action is. The tattoo is a spell. I’m imbuing my actions with urgency. There’s no time. Change it now. Move forward. Hurry the fuck up.
When I was a younger I really liked The Streets. There was a lyric that always stuck with me, that I never realised was paraphrased the bible. “I came to this world with nothing, and I’ll leave with nothing but love, everything else is just borrowed ⠀
Sometimes shit gets a bit much. Sometimes you just have to Chill The Fuck Out, and Take Care Of Business.
I saw the word PARADISE tattooed on my friend Teon’s head. It was so simple. What’s happiness without purpose? What’s the journey without the goal? The way I saw it, paradise isn’t a place, it’s an idea; it’s an aspiration. It’s something better. It’s something to look to. Today my friend @tattoomondays put it on my stomach above ‘salam’, the Arabic word for peace, and below a favourite quote from the Qura; a smile is a charity. The point of an obstacle is to overcome it. The point of the journey is the destination. The destination may
be abstract, but the pathway is our lived reality. ⠀